First off I’d like to give a big thank you to Maggie and Trina for giving me this opportunity to write a post for Wag The Dog UK 🙂 I really hope this post helps you and gives a solid base to start from for giving your dog the right food.
It’s no secret that dogs are carnivores. They love meat naturally, although I sense that there’s a lot of confusion out there about what constitutes a healthy diet for a dog. On my site, JackRussellAdvice.co.uk, I try to help answer people’s questions about nutrition – it can be quite confusing at times!
While wolves and other wild dogs happily live their lives eating raw meat from their prey, what’s natural isn’t necessarily healthy, and what’s healthy isn’t necessarily natural. Raw meat can easily get highly infected very quickly, and can carry serious diseases with it.
It’s important to understand the role of foods and nutrients in the dog’s body, and how each type of macronutrient serves a different purpose. Human and dog dietary needs are similar but by no means equal.
What’s a macronutrient?
No matter what it is, you can break all types of food down into three macronutrients. These are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These are all covered in the media quite a lot, especially fat, and moreso nowadays carbohydrates, or ‘carbs’.
Dogs, like humans, need these three in a steady balance in their diet, otherwise their bodies won’t function at their highest potential.
First off, protein is the macronutrient that helps with growth and tissue maintenance. Without protein the dog’s cells won’t be able to grow, or even maintain themselves. You see, cells die and are reborn at a fast rate – extremely fast in dogs, in fact – so protein is essential.
Protein is made up of amino acids, and each amino acid performs a function. We won’t go too much into the details here, but there is a subset called ‘essential amino acids’, and of these the most important three are the ‘branched chain amino acids’ (BCAAs) called leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The dog’s body can’t produce these by themselves, so its essential to get them in the diet. In fact, the proportion of BCAAs actually tells you the ‘quality’ of a protein source. Many dog food manufactuers now tout the vague ‘quality animal protein’ in their products, so be sure to cast a critical eye on the type of protein source in the product before buying.
Now onto carbs. Carbs provide fast, instant energy. These go from simple sugars, like fructose and glucose found in fruit and grains, to the complex carbohydrates found in healthy vegetables. Generally the more complex the carb the better, and too many sugars in the diet will cause insulin resistance, leading to canine diabetes.
Fat is also essential, and is often mistreated as a result of faulty marketing. It helps the body to break down proteins in the diet so the dog can digest them, and the essential vitamins A, D, E, and K are soluble in fat.
With no fat in the diet, dogs cannot absorb many super-important nutrients. Obviously though, fat is still the most calorie-dense macronutrient at 9 cals/g, so too much fat in the diet will make your dog put on a little bit of weight.
So what does this mean for my dog?
It’s always important to cast a critical and informed eye on any commercial dog food products you buy for your furry companion, because there is often a level of vagueness in the claims they make about their nutritional content.
To help give your dog the right food it’s also imperative to include a lot of fresh meat and produce in ther diet. They’ll absolutely love any cooked meats like chicken, pork, turkey, or beef, and these will give them a fantastic amount of protein that they need.
Vegetables are also a good addition – my family’s Jack Russell Poppy absolutely loves carrots and mashed potatoes with her tea, and they provide her with the extra vitamins she needs.
Finally, good luck and I hope you find this information resourceful!
Jon Baldie bio
Jon is a Jack Russell lover and professional athlete in training based in Ayrshire, Scotland, who recently founded JackRussellAdvice.co.uk, the online resource for new Jack Russell owners.